March 7, 2012 -- Need a new reason to boost the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet?
Consider this: Eating more produce is an all-natural way to make your skin look more attractive, a new study suggests. It's Mother Nature's way of giving skin a healthy hue.
In fact, Scottish researchers suggest that changes in the redness and yellowness of skin in white people may be linked to the number of servings of fruit and vegetables they eat on a daily basis. These antioxidant-rich foods, which are loaded with plant-based pigments, seem to affect skin tone.
For the study, which appears in the online journal PLoS ONE, scientists analyzed data from 35 college students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The average age was 21.
Participants completed food frequency questionnaires describing how often they ate certain foods during all three sessions of the study over a six-week period. On average, the students ate 3.5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Scientists also measured each person's skin tone at seven body locations, including the cheeks, forehead, shoulder, and upper arm, at the beginning of the study as well as at three weeks and six weeks.
Healthier, Better-Looking Skin
It didn't take long and it didn't take a large increase in food to improve the skin's appearance. After six weeks, the scientists observed noticeable increases in skin redness and yellowness in people who increased the fruit and vegetables at their meals.
Healthier and rosier-looking skin was linked with an increase of one portion of fruit and vegetables a day.
"Diet-linked skin color changes occurred over a relatively short time period and were attainable through relatively modest dietary changes," the study researchers write.
They suggest it's the carotenoids -- the red, yellow, and orange pigments in fruits and vegetables -- that play an important role in skin tone. Foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and apricots are rich in beta-carotene, as are some dark green vegetables, including spinach and kale.
Another carotenoid is lycopene, which is found in tomatoes and pink grapefruits.
Scientists don't know if similar findings would be seen in people with other skin pigmentations, or if older adults would have the same changes in skin tone as younger adults.